Premium co-working and resort operator naked Group is venturing into the fund management business by hiring a Gaw Capital veteran to head up a new investment team, the Shanghai-based start-up has revealed to Mingtiandi.
Jennifer Zhang has joined the firm as Head of Investment, reporting to founder and chairman Grant Horsfield. In her new role the executive will set up an investment platform targetting resort properties and commercial buildings, while also supporting mergers and acquisitions for expanding the firm’s sharing economy operations.
naked Building an Investment Team
Already on board at naked headquarters since the end of February, Zhang is building a team to support the investment initiative, and some internal resources have been assigned to her already, she informed Mingtiandi.
In the new role, Zhang will harness naked’s integrated asset management capabilities — which include in-house design, construction and technology teams — to focus on adding value to commercial properties acquired or managed by the group. “We actually deliver a lot of value for the landlord by turning around buildings, through creative designs, through intensive operation improvement, so we are able to establish a good operating performance for the business,” Zhang said.
“Naked is looking to partner with landlords and investors to set-up an investment platform for commercial buildings which can be converted into naked products, and also a separate investment platform for the resort business,” she added. “By implementing naked’s creative asset management and operational know-how, we believe we can generate good performance for the investment platform.”
naked Ventures into Fund Management
naked Group already operates 41 locations across Asia through its co-working brand naked Hub, and has two resorts under its ownership in eastern China. The company positions itself as the leading lifestyle brand for flexible workspace, resorts, home and wellness across Asia.
naked Hub is backed by Hong Kong private equity shop Gaw Capital Partners, which led a $33 million investment round in the co-working startup that closed in November 2016.
Zhang brings over 13 years of investment management experience in China to the new role, spanning real estate management and private equity funds. Prior to joining naked, she served as Senior Investment Director of Gaw Capital for over 10 years, where she led or participated in closing more than RMB 20 billion ($3.2 billion) worth of transactions.
At Gaw, Zhang built a relationship with Grant Horsfield, founder of naked Group, and the naked team working together on a variety of initiatives including resort-related opportunities and naked Hub, Zhang explained to Mingtiandi.
Lifestyle Brand Eyes Commercial, Resort Investments
Plans for the new investment strategy are still at an early stage, but naked Group CEO Manoj Mehta said the firm was planning to set up two separate investment platforms.
The former Goodyear executive indicated that naked Group sees opportunities for a China resort-focussed fund. The group’s resort arm, naked Retreats, currently owns and operates a pair of luxury resorts in the tourist destination of Moganshan, near the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou. naked also has a number of management contracts with other owners, with an additional 20 in the pipeline, to be opened in the next few years.
The group also flags investment potential in urban commercial buildings, including offices and shopping malls, that can be acquired and turned around into lifestyle products.
Gaw Veteran To Drive M&A Deals
“We are looking at several other geographies where there are operators we could acquire to kick-start our market entry,” Mehta commented. “So Zhang will also be leading that initiative for naked, as well as assisting our fundraising team on the funding side for our operating businesses.”
The company ventured into Australia in January by picking up a 70 percent stake in Aussie co-working operator Gravity. “naked Hub’s business is growing very, very quickly, so we’re trying to do more M&A across different regions as well,” said Zhang.
The holder of a master’s degree from the University of Cambridge has worked on the full spectrum of real estate projects in China, spanning office, retail, serviced apartment, hotel, residential, co-working and co-living assets, along with overseas deals.